Referee Tony Corrente and his crew are certainly under the microscope this week as a result of how they officiated the Sunday game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots and on Tuesday we learned that the head official called a timeout for the home team during their final offensive possession that they didn’t want.
After Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster on a short pass that ultimately resulted in a gain of 69 yards, Corrente signaled a timeout for Pittsburgh with 34 seconds left in the game. During his Tuesday morning interview on 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger explained that he didn’t ask Corrente for a timeout after Smith-Schuster was tackled at the Patriots 10-yard-line.
“He went 60 something yards, I don’t even know how far he went, but it’s a long way for guys to run,” Roethlisberger said of Smith-Schuster’s late catch and run. “So, I’m looking to the sideline to Coach [Tomlin], like, ‘Are we taking this timeout, what are we doing?’ Which is very typical. Obviously, the only person that can communicate to me is Todd [Haley] and I’m sure he’s asking Coach Tomlin and everybody. So, I’m putting my hands up like, ‘Are we taking the timeout, are we taking the timeout?’
And Tony [Corrente] the head official, thought I was calling timeout so he blew it. And I’m not sure if Mike wanted to use it or not, I know that he was talking about trying to run up and spike it, but I guess Tony thought I was calling timeout instead of looking at Coach Tomlin and communicating with him. So unfortunately, or fortunately, or however you want to say it, we used our last timeout, but it gave us time to regroup and for JuJu to catch his breath, I’ll tell you that. Which he needed that.”
During his Tuesday press conference, Tomlin was asked if wanted a timeout called after Smith-Schuster had been tackled.
“I did not,” Tomlin said. “Ben was signaling timeout, making eye contact with me on the sideline. I want to pocket that timeout, but in the midst of him making eye contact with me and signaling to see if we wanted timeout, Tony [Corrente] interpreted that as Ben as calling a timeout. And so that’s why a timeout was awarded. During that timeout I called Tony over and said, ‘Why did you award that timeout, the timeouts are supposed to come from the bench?’ He said that the timeout request came from Ben. I said, ‘I was looking at Ben. Ben was signaling timeout, but he wasn’t signaling at you, he was signaling timeout at me, trying to get confirmation of what we wanted to do.'”
While Tomlin not wanting a timeout in that situation might be true, if you look at Roethlisberger while he’s running down the field after completing the pass to Smith-Schuster, he’s spinning around signaling a timeout. In short, I can see why Corrente called the timeout thinking he was doing the Steelers and specifically, Tomlin a favor.
Even if no timeout would have been called, a good 15 to 20 seconds likely would have run off the game clock before Roethlisberger would have been able to spike the football. Obviously it doesn’t matter now in the grand scheme of things but as the next few plays ultimately played out, that extra timeout would have been nice to have.